One of the issues being debated at this time is the proposal to move towards a system of organising Lok Sabha and state assembly elections at the same time. Prime Minister Modi has been promoting this idea under the slogan “One nation, one election”. President Ramnath Kovind raised this issue in Parliament. Niti Ayog has produced a discussion paper on the subject, suggesting a move to simultaneous elections in two phases.
One justification being given for this proposal is that it would save a lot of money and time. Another is that the central and state governments can carry out their work in between election years without being interrupted by the operation of the model code of conduct.
Who really stands to gain from this proposed reform?
If central and state elections are held together, the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and other capitalist monopoly houses can pour all their financial support at one time and create a single big “wave” in support of the party and leader of their choice, at the centre and in all the states. They can have one party dominating both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, so as to more easily push ahead with their globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation program. In other words, the big bourgeoisie is the main beneficiary of this proposed reform.
Elections to all state assemblies were in fact held at the same time as elections to the Lok Sabha until the middle of the 1960s. Then, various governments in the states and in the centre started failing to last their full term. They lost no-confidence motions. In many such cases, the legislative body had to be dissolved and fresh elections held. As a result, over time, the election cycle in states became different from one another and from the Lok Sabha election cycle.
Holding simultaneous elections, under the present parliamentary system and political process, is in the service of further concentrating power in the hands of the central State and the monopoly houses that control it. The elected members of a state legislative assembly will be deprived of the right to dissolve the assembly and call for fresh elections, if and when the conditions demand it. This will further strengthen the hold of the monopoly houses over the central and state governments.
India consists of numerous nations, nationalities and peoples who came together in the struggle against British colonial rule. The rights of every nation, nationality and peoples within our country deserve to be recognised, respected and protected. Only then can India remain stable and safe from the threat of disintegration. Only then can an Indian nation building project succeed in inspiring the diverse peoples who make up Indian society to voluntarily stay together and work together to build our future. The suggestion to hold simultaneous elections so that the monopoly bourgeoisie can have control over a single party at the centre and states is a retrograde step that will further subjugate the peoples of all nationalities within the country to the dictate of the monopoly houses.
For all of the above reasons, the proposal to move to a system of simultaneous elections must be unequivocally opposed by all parties and organisations of workers, peasants, women and youth.
As far as the vast majority of people are concerned, the fundamental problem with the political system is not that elections are held at different times in different parts of the country. The fundamental problem is that the people are deprived of sovereignty, both as individuals and as members of various nations, nationalities and peoples.
People have no role in the selection of candidates for election. They are completely marginalised from the political process once they have cast their vote. The ruling party is not accountable for its actions to the elected legislative body. Those elected are not accountable to those who elected them; they are only answerable to the parties which gave them the ticket. The central Cabinet has overriding powers over elected state legislatures.
Nothing short of a complete overhaul of the political system can address these problems.
The Constitution must guarantee that sovereignty is vested in the people. It must guarantee the rights of every nation, nationality and peoples within India. At the central, state and local levels of governance, the executive must be accountable to the elected legislative body, which in turn must be accountable to the people who elected it. People must enjoy the right to select candidates prior to any election. People must enjoy the right to recall the one they elected at any time. They must enjoy the right to initiate legislation. They must enjoy the right to reformulate the Constitution.